Senator Santiago admits flip-flop on ARMM polls stance
MANILA, Philippines–(UPDATE) Senator Miriam Defensor- Santiago acknowledged on Tuesday that she reversed her position when she voted in favor of the postponement of the Autonomous Regions in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections. But she stoutly denied that her 180-degree turn on the controversial issue was motivated by “political gain.”
“In the stories filed about the Senate vote on the ARMM bill yesterday, some of you noted that I had changed my position: I view the bill as constitutional, and voted in its favor,” Santiago said in a letter addressed to the Senate media.
“However, certain reporters chose to read bad faith on my part, and imply that in effect, I have turned into a political monkey, turning somersaults in the air. That is unfair,” she said.
Santiago explained that when first asked about her position against ARMM polls a few months ago, her stand was that “synchronization” of the ARMM polls with the national elections has no constitutional mandate.
But when the House of Representatives version on the ARMM bill reached the Senate, the senator said she was astonished to discover a previous court ruling which stated the mere phrase “synchronization of elections” had turned into nothing less than “a constitutional mandate.”
“That is why I changed my opinion. I think that the Supreme Court might have committed error, but puny me must abide by the ruling. The Supreme Court is always right. I have labored to explain why as a lawyer, I am constrained to obey the Supreme Court, although as a politician I might think otherwise,” she said.
Santiago also confirmed meeting with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Monday noon, or just hours before the Senate voted to approve the ARMM postponement on the floor, but did not talk about the issue.
She said they mostly talked about certain pressing issues of international law, such as the Spratly islands issue.
“No mention was ever made of my vote on the ARMM bill. And in any event, I could not have written a legal opinion with cited cases just one hour before session,” said Santiago, one of 13 senators who voted in favor of the ARMM postponement.
The senator said she felt sad that despite her written speech on the issue, some of the reporters still seemed to think that she was capable of exchanging “intellectual conviction for political gain.”
“This is my last senatorial term, and I have nothing to gain from the administration. But generally, I will support a sitting president, because that job is torture,” she said.
Santiago added that she had been in bad health for over a year now, “but I soldier on.”
“ I am sometimes absent. I am in pain. I just feel sad. And sick. And tired,” she said.